Reports that India has thrown out bids by two US companies for the multi-billion dollar MMRCA has caused “enormous disappointment” in Washington with a feeling that the US might have been “overgenerous” with New Delhi lately.
US officials pointed to a statement by US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer as the government's response, saying it has been a "deep disappointment" indeed, but ruled out the prospect of it causing long-term damage to relations between the two countries.
Former officials and experts with links to the administration, however, were less sanguine and spoke “enormous disappointment” and said it raised questions about the future of ties, especially defence ties.
The administration had invested considerable amount of effort into bagging the deal – worth over $10 billion for 120 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRC) – for US aviation industry giants Lockheed and Boeing.
The deal had figured in nearly every pitch made to India from any forum over the past some months.
“The feeling is that India may have settled for a plane, but could be foregoing a relationship,” said former White House official and an India hand at Carnegie, Ashley Tellis.
He attributed the rejection to “the current paralysis in US-IN defense relations”. And added the ministry of defence might be pursuing a policy “that is at some variance with the PM’s vision” of India-US ties.
Former state department official Dan Markey called it a “frustrating departure from a pattern of close US-India ties in the military arena”.
“It will undoubtedly raise concerns in Washington over whether enthusiasm for the US-India relationship ran too high, whether the civil nuclear deal and UNSC seat support were overgenerous,” said Markey.